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Technically the Call on Purcell's Non Goal Was Correct. How to Actually Get it Right Next Time.

The referees made the right call on Purcell's non goal on Saturday. Technically. But there is room for improvement.

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

At any time, Elliotte Friedman's weekly column 30 Thoughts is a must read. In the days leading up to the trade deadline, with rumours swirling about almost every players in every city, it's the type of thing you click on immediately and then complain that it took three whole seconds to load. Unfortunately for Oilers fans there isn't much in there this week besides the obvious - they'll be sellers at the deadline - but in the introduction he touches on Teddy Purcell 's non goal on Saturday night which I found interesting. From the article:

Here’s what happened: In the two examples from last week, both plays should have been blown dead. If you think about it logically, a penalty is being called on Colorado (Wednesday) and Edmonton (Saturday) before either Iginla or Purcell touch the puck. Once they do, there should be a whistle. No way a goal should count.

However, review rules allow for a challenge if there is a "simultaneous" goal/penalty. So, say on Wednesday, the original shot goes in as Iginla knocks over Scrivens. Or, on Saturday, Purcell scores as Hall falls into Pickard. Those situations are not as clear. In those instances, a coach can ask for a replay challenge. And, if the referees sided with the penalized club, the goal would count with the penalty erased.

So, on Monday, the league and its referees reiterated the correct method of handling this scenario. If the Iginla/Purcell situation happens again, no review is allowed. Anytime a delayed penalty would be called before the puck enters the net, the play is dead.

This makes sense to me. Taylor Hall interferes with Calvin Pickard, the referee calls a penalty, and when Purcell touches the puck the whistle goes and the goal doesn't count. It's really no different than if Hall had interfered with one of the Avalanche defenders as he was coming across the ice. There never should have been a review. Whether or not the referee got the interference call right is an entirely different issue, once the penalty is being called there is no way that the goal can be allowed to count.

For what it's worth, my seats are on the goal line where this play took place, on the same side of the ice as the referee, and I thought it was interference when it happened. The replay may show something different but hockey is a fast game and we're all human and mistakes get made. Referees are not perfect, referees are never going to be perfect, and I accept this as part of the game. I'm certainly not going to criticize a referee for calling it exactly the same way that I saw it.

Having seen it now a few times, and with the benefit of multiple angles and slow motion, I think we can all agree that the call wasn't right. How could the NHL go about making sure this doesn't happen again? Is it something that they should bother worrying about? There are really two issues here, the penalty and the goal, the penalty is the easiest so lets start with that one.

The only way to reverse the penalty would be to allow coaches to challenge penalties. And as someone who thinks that the idea of the coaches challenge is among the NHL's worst ideas ever, expanding it to include reviewing penalties would not be something that I would be in support of. The game is slow enough as is, introducing more reviews simply isn't necessary. Like I said above, referees aren't perfect, nor should they be excepted to be perfect. I'm more that happy to just continue assuming that the missed/bad calls balance out over time.

But even if you did allow coaches to challenge penalties that might not help avoid situations like this.

On this play Purcell was there and the goal was scored immediately, the whistle and the goal were almost simultaneous. But that won't always be the case. Once Purcell touches the puck the whistle should be blown, but what if his shot had been blocked and bounced towards another Oiler and it was that player that scored the goal? Now the goal and the whistle are separate events and it's reasonable to think that a few players, having heard the whistle, thought that the play to be dead (remember the Mick McGeough/Shawn Horcoff hand pass?). In this case a challenge might be able to reverse the penalty but it couldn't award a goal.

The only way to award a goal would be to let the play or the scoring chance reach it's natural conclusion (I'm going to leave trying to define that to someone much smarter than me), after which the referees could confer and reach a decision, was the goalie interfered with or not? And this decision could then be subject to a coaches challenge. You see something similar in football when the quarterback fumbles the ball and the referees are unsure whether it was a fumble or a forward pass; they let the play finish and then make a decision because you can't un-blow the whistle.

That's the problem with the play as is, the whistle has to be blown and once it is there's no going back. I'm not a fan of the coaches challenge, if it were up to me I'd get rid of it before tonight's games, but at least using it in this way could result in some offence being added to the game instead of only being taken away like it is now. If you're going to have it, you might as well use it properly.